Monday, 1 October 2007

MY STORY - Chapter 4 - I meet my Husband

19th December 1959

The Village of Lustleigh, on the edge of Dartmoor in Devon,

where we spent our honeymoon

It was in the situation I found myself in at the end of the last chapter that I met my husband, Alan. I had been in a relationship for the previous 3 years that was becoming very painful for me. In those days, being in a relationship, meant having a steady boyfriend. With the wisdom of today, looking back I can see that I was repeating the familiar pattern of what I am sure would have become a destructive relationship.

I first met Alan at his Mother’s house. I was having a holiday at my Aunt and Uncle’s home. My Aunt was married to Alan’s Mother’s brother, so I was actually visiting my Aunt’s sister-in-law when I met Alan for the first time. I was 20 and he was 27. I had not met him previously as he had always been away when I had visited and he had been nothing more than a picture on the side board. He was in the Merchant Navy, an engineer with British Petroleum, and had been home on study leave for the previous nine months.

On that particular Saturday afternoon he and a friend were busy working on Alan’s car and he was dressed in a boiler suit and somewhat covered in engine oil. He had returned to the house for tea, to which his Mother had already invited me, so cleaned up enough to be able to sit at the table with us. Unknown to me he had a wicked sense of humour and joked about his rather prim and proper school teacher Mother liking her Gin. Wanting to fit in I immediately said, “You can be my friend, I love my Gin too!” Apparently in the ensuing silence Alan had become endeared with my long blond hair and my easy rapport with his Mother.

After tea, before going out again to finish the job on his car, he asked if I would still be there when he got back. I had originally only visited for the afternoon but obviously there was some connection going on here because I said yes. He returned about 8.0 pm and rushed upstairs. A little time later he appeared smartly dressed in a brown suit. Hard to believe now, but in those days this was the manner of dress when going out. He asked if I would like to see the ‘the bright lights of Gateshead’. I agreed and these bright lights turned out to be the local coffee cellar, yes, that’s right, but I am talking about the late 50’s. Afterwards he walked me home and unknown to me at the time my Aunt was looking out of the window in horror. As soon as I entered the house she immediately said I was to have nothing to do with Alan as he did not have a good reputation (in her eyes) as he was only interested in drinking, women and cars. I’m not sure what it was that she wanted for me, but it was not this.

Before parting Alan asked if he could see me the next morning for a walk in the park. I agreed and when lying awake in bed that night I just knew that he was going to ask me to marry him. He was not a Christian which was a concern to me even though there was not much evidence of my faith in my life at that time. However, against all appearances I knew that God would keep His word and that I could not escape from Him and that I would have to recommit my life to Him. I believed that if God could do that for me, then He could do it for Alan too, so I settled this issue in my mind. We had our walk in the park and after returning me to my Aunt’s house Alan asked if we could meet again in the afternoon. This we did and I ended up staying for tea at his Mother’s house again. After tea his parents went out to visit with other relatives, which apparently was their regular way of spending a Sunday evening. Alan declined the offer to accompany them and instead we sat and played records on the gramophone in their front room. Sure enough during that time Alan asked me if I would marry him approximately 24 hours after we had first met. I agreed to marry Alan with a certain faith that he would become a Christian. However, it did not happen as quickly as I had thought it would and I had to believe and pray for his salvation for 15 years before it became a reality. For myself, I kept putting off re-dedicating my life to Christ as I thought I was too sinful and not capable of maintaining a Christian life. In those days I thought I had to get my life together first in order to be acceptable to God again. I did not understand Grace and thought it was down to my effort.

So, having agreed to marry Alan he took me to his Aunt’s house where his parents were visiting. He announced our engagement wherein his Mother said, “Oh! Alan, stop it, not another one of your jokes.” When he said he was serious, we were met with silence and disbelief until his Aunt ran upstairs and returned with a set of pillowcases and said she wanted to be the first to congratulate us. Relief!! Our immediate families were not so excited though. Alan’s Mother said that I was far too young to marry her son and she did not like what she had heard about my Father.

As Alan had been on study leave for some months we decided that if we were going to get married he needed to take a temporary job and earn some money. He took a job on a small ship (known as a coaster), sailing around the UK coast. We decided that the only way we would see each other was if I went and stayed at his parent’s home. We needed to see each other because remember, we had only just met. We therefore travelled to Liverpool to introduce Alan to my parents and tell them what we had decided. My Father’s reaction was to say “Once you step out of this front door, don’t ever come back”. We did decide to go ahead with our plans and Alan took a very distressed new fiancĂ©e back to his parent’s house. I found a job as a secretary to the Chief Engineer of Marconi Marine and, against all the odds; we were married 4 months later. That was 48 years ago and we have since come through all the ups and downs, excitement and trauma together.

After marrying, Alan decided he needed to go back to Marine College to take his Chief Engineer’s ticket so I continued to work to support us while we stayed at his parent’s house. About 10 weeks later when Alan completed his qualifications, he came home one Monday evening and said that he had a job as a Chief Engineer on board a cargo ship. He also said that I would be going with him and we would be leaving for Canada the following Saturday. Chief Engineers and Captains were always able to take their wives with them if they wished.

The next few chapters in my story will cover this very interesting and eventful time, so stay tuned…………………..


Becky said...

I thought I had a fast engagment. I knew my husband for 6 weeks before we were engaged. But 24 hours! Wow! That takes the cake.

Penless Thoughts said...

Now that is a true, fairy tale meeting, engagement and marriage. You were a beautiful bride, Barbara!!

Loved this part of your story.

Susie said...

It's obvious you made the right decision! This is a wonderful love story and you were a gorgeous bride :)

Sara said...

Wow! I can hardly wait to hear the next chapter . . . what an amazing whirlwind romance you had.

You both look so very happy in your wedding photo.

My high school German teacher met and married her husband within two weeks and they are still happy; it's been at least 40 years I think. It does happen that way sometimes.

Mary said...

Fate is just amazing - and that's what caused the two of you to meet at just the right time! That you are together still after an entire lifetime is awesome. So many give up when things aren't perfect don't they?
Lustleigh for your honeymoon - one of my favorite Devon villages. I always try to visit there for tea when home.
Thanks for sharing such a romantic story Barbara - this is a 'true romance.'

Willow said...

Wow! That was fast! My parens met, got engaged and were married in 3 1/2 weeks! What if I had tried that???? Or one of my daughters???? The most wonderful part is that you have been married for, what, going on 50 years and my parents were married 47 years until my mom passed away.

Linds said...

My husband was in the merchant navy too, and I travelled with him for a couple of years! And we met in April, got engaged in June and married the following March.

Jeanne said...

I love your love story.
Thanks for all that you share.
Love Jeanne

nikkipolani said...

What an astounding story, Barbara! You amaze me with your calm acceptance of a proposal and an unclear future.

Betty said...

Barbara, this is like reading a were so brave for a 20 year old....

This is very exciting and I wait with anticipation for the next chapter.....Betty

melissa @ the inspired room said...

Whoa, you hooked me in! I was married at age 20, to my husband who was 9 years older. We met one year prior to our marriage when I was 19. Needless to say my parents were less than thrilled about me marrying at that age to an "older" man. But, we knew it was right and we are still together three kids and 21 years later. I'll have to tune in to find out more of your story!


Teresa said...

After the hurt of the last chapter, this is nice. Alan, is a mover and shaker, seems to know what he wants, goes for it, and gets it. And, he intends to take care of you. How lovely, how wonderful. I realize I am 48+ years late, and I have no pillow cases on hand to send, but, congratulations!